BATH TOWNSHIP — First they told Rylee Sybert it wasn’t that big of a deal. Then they let her know that, yes, it was a very big deal.
Sybert scored on a two-footer on an in-bounds play as time ran out to give Columbus Grove a 42-40 win over Bluffton in a Division IV girls basketball sectional championship game on Saturday night at Bath High School.
It was a play Columbus Grove had never run before in a game. It called for Angel Schneider and Carlee McCluer to set screens, Lauren Schroeder to run across the floor from right to left as a decoy and Teyah Sautter to deliver a pass to Sybert coming off the screens.
It all came together the way it was supposed to and Sybert got the ball into the basket against strong defensive pressure and quite a bit of contact.
“We had never run that play before. He (coach Brian Schroeder) drew it up on the side. I was a little nervous but everyone told me, ‘It’s just a bunny, it’s just a bunny.’ I went fast and it went in,” Sybert said.
That little bunny set off a big celebration and gave Northwest Conference champion Columbus Grove its second closely contested win over Bluffton this season. During the regular season it needed two overtimes to beat the Pirates 57-52.
“We had not repped (repeated) that situation in practice. We had never run that play. I had seen a high school boys team (Continental) run it a few years ago and I thought maybe it would work,” Schroeder said. “The girls did a great job of executing, everybody had a role.
“Rylee’s never been put in that situation where we put the ball in her hands to win the game an she came through for us,” he said.
Sybert, a junior guard, led Columbus Grove (15-8) with 19 points and hit another buzzer beater with a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter.
Alivia Koenig led Bluffton (18-6) with 16 points, including five 3-pointers.
Columbus Grove jumped out to a 15-5 lead after one quarter but Bluffton cut all but two points off that advantage by halftime, when it was 21-19.
The game was tied 31-31 after three quarters. Columbus Grove took a five-point lead, 38-33, with three minutes to play but Bluffton tied the game again at 40-40 with 12 seconds to go on a 3-pointer by Katie Prater.
That was the eleventh 3-pointer of the game for the Pirates, who made only two two-point field goals all night. Their first bucket of the game was a two-pointer by Libby Schaadt and the second one didn’t happen until there was 5:50 left in the game.
“That was pretty similar to the first game. I think we were up to begin the game in the first quarter, like tonight,” Schroeder said. “Give credit to Bluffton, they battled back after being down in a tournament environment. That’s a really good team.”
Sybert said, “We were hoping to not make it as crazy (as the double-overtime game) and start off well and keep going. But they played a really good game. We were hoping no overtime but you never know how it’s going to work out.”
In the second game at Bath, Sarah Klausing scored 17 points to lead Kalida (16-7) to a 47-28 win to claim a sectional title.
Kalida jumped out to a 26-8 halftime lead and took control of the game by holding Miller City to one point in the second quarter.
“That second quarter was probably as locked in defensively as we have been in a long time,” Kalida coach Adam Huber.
Kalida won the regular-season game against Miller City in the Putnam County League 45-35 and has won eight games in a row.
“We thought the last time they played as hard as we did. Not harder but as hard, which is rare. We just said all week we had to be ready for their physicality On our defensive end we just tried to take away their key players and I thought we did a really nice job of that,” Huber said.